Thomasina R. Legend
Are fashion studies still imperative for a career in fashion in these dire times after a pandemic as horrific as COVID? A graduate degree in Fashion Design or education is worth it regardless of the situation as it is an ever-growing field with a broad scope for progress and growth. Fashion education undoubtedly provides a rich skillset, crucial industry links, and access to an incomparable network. However, Covid-19 has derailed how fashion schools operate. Students enrolling post-pandemic face uncomfortable questions about the value of a costly education conducted at social distance, but this still does not derail the huge number of prospective students applying to fashion schools. Due to the pandemic, students and aspiring designers couldn't finish their collections in time. Students faced and still face a serious risk of graduating into a recession, making employment harder to secure for many. Questions are raised over whether schools can adapt quickly enough to provide students with the skills needed for a new market.
With every tough situation, a positive always emerges. With the pandemic, COVID-19 has pushed schools to look at how fashion education is adapting to the change. How is the next generation of industry professionals being prepared for a rapidly changing industry? Has the role of startups with vital industry solutions changed? Are they more critical than ever?
One of the biggest things to come out of the pandemic is the fact that fashion schools are becoming more open to digital-first solutions in a way that enriches the learnings on offer. Students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with 3D design programmes like Clo, Optitex and Browzwear. This expertise can prove helpful when applying for jobs at companies that expect employees to be fluent in 3D fashion design. Some students have showcased how they have used adversity to gain new skills by using 3D software to create virtual reality looks in their spare time for their final projects. Many fashion students had their final shows cancelled because of the pandemic.
Parsons School of Design in New York London'son's Central Saint Martins maintain an approach for fashion design rooted in the core manual skills of drawing and illustration. The tools of communication have become digital in the past decade or so, but the creative process of graduates remains resolutely manual. Also, the Digital Learning Lab at the London College of Fashion offers students support for learning and creating products and experiences, explaining how students are using new technologies to learn and create. These are all areas that fashion schools in the West are rapidly working hard to become a norm. Digital design and coding is part of the curriculum for garment technology students at most fashion schools. Current undertakings include learning software like Clo3D and Optitex, which are added options. The industry is aiming to deliver end-to-end digital fashion from design to showroom. Many industry giants, including Addidas and H&M, use Clo3D. Clo3D allows garment design and 2D garment pattern making to happen concurrently. Students pick up digital tools such as Clo3D, Rhino, and other 3D digital tools as they find more time on their hands to practice and learn.
How can this benefit African fashion schools and students? Technology and the skill sets that go with it is the way forward for all industries regardless of location. Getting students familiar with digital and technical skills is a need now more than ever alongside the practical. A new generation of digital and technical designers will be needed to serve the fashion industry, with the shift now quickly going digital and technology-based. Digital software solutions require the amalgamation of design and technical disciplines, with around 50% of students post Covid-19 exploring digital design software, including Clo3D. For graduating students, their work will be presented in an online Portfolio portal, so the mandatory medium is digital and should be incorporated as soon as possible.
Regardless of the disruptions of the pandemic on fashion education and how its traditional methods of imparting skills and knowledge are shifting, it is no doubt that a graduate degree in fashion design is still definitely worth it, as it is an ever-growing field with a wide scope for progress and growth especially where digital and technological skills are becoming more expansive and inclusive. It is great to see the unfolding shift in how fashion education is evolving and how African fashion schools can implement digital and technological skills, knowledge and practices.
Image via Vogue